Live Zoom for Dummies - Calm Me
June 6, 2022 6:47 PM   Subscribe

Hey, I need some help appearing my best on a live Zoom tomorrow. I would to appear calm even if I'm not.

I've done plenty of zoom, have nice backgrounds, but have never been the main speaker.

I'm pretty sure I won't be able to pop an inderol ("saved many poets' and musicians' careers" according to one professor, and durned if he wasn't right) although stage fright is my #1 concern.
Zoom is not like performing from the stage after all, where there's more feet between me and them.

I have wavy hair--would would be the best thing to make it pretty?

The only other advice I was given was to stack books so the camera is level to me,
and wear lipstick.

My skin is very good but I am not ravingly beautiful.

I have practiced (reading out loud and Q and A.) Honestly I can't believe I signed up for this.
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: At this point everyone is so inured to seeing faces on zoom that as long as you don't commit any felonies on camera folks will barely bat an eye.

If you want to present your best:
- camera at your face level really is great advice
- sort your lighting out
- do not use background blur
- take anything you wouldn't want public out of the room you'll be in, don't just move it 6 inches out of frame
- wear something you're comfortable in that looks nice, this goes for makeup as well, if you're not a lipstick person then you're probably gonna end up with lipstick on your teeth and that's worse
- finally, and I cannot stress this enough, take the bra off the doorknob. When there's sudden loud noise outside and you reach behind you to shut the door closed that's a really bad time to remember the bra hanging on the back of it.

But for real this is no big deal, no one cares about zoom calls anymore, you are going to be SO OKAY
posted by phunniemee at 6:56 PM on June 6, 2022 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Lighting is the single biggest thing that affects how someone looks on Zoom (or, for that matter, on any sort of video or any still photography). Light yourself well and you’ll look good.

Other than that, do what makes you comfortable. If you wear a costume because someone told you it’s what people wear in these situations, you’ll feel like you’re wearing a costume.

Put an inspirational picture behind your camera so that when you look at the camera (i.e., most of the time), you’ll see your kids or your dog or the Bahamas or whatever makes you feel good.

Nobody cares what you look like. Informational calls are informational. Nobody is there to evaluate whether you look attractive. That said, most people are better looking than they give themselves credit for.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:06 PM on June 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If it helps, you can hide your video from your own view (without disabling it for everyone else).
posted by oceano at 7:13 PM on June 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What I do:

Camera slightly above eye level

Lighting also from slightly above, preferably multiple indirect sources; nothing too harsh

Try to have either a blank wall or something simple as background. Bookshelves work, but check what's on them.

Remember where your webcam is. When you look into it, that's eye contact with your audience.

Scroll to keep your text as near the top of your screen as possible. The further downscreen you read, the more out-of-contact with your audience you are.

I just use a single monitor, so I size the Zoom window to half the screen and have my text in the other half at an easily readable font size. If it's a Word doc, I change the view from "print layout" to "web layout" so there are no page breaks and the margins automatically adjust themselves.

Best of luck! I agree with your prof about beta blockers; don't hesitate to take one (half an hour or longer before you speak.)

Oh, and: Give yourself permission to fuck up, if it happens. The world won't end; we've all been there.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:14 PM on June 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You're going to do great!

I would recommend having a glass of water off camera in a very close position.

When I'm on calls with a lot of people (I have to do interviews watched by many) I tend to shrink the window and hide my face view and anything else distracting behind something (another window or whatever) once I'm all set. That way I'm not distracted by seeing myself move with a delay or anything.

Just talk directly to the camera like the camera is a person. It feels a little weird to make eye contact with a lens but it is the most engaging way to speak!

If you have to read your screen or check your notes, do it confidently, there's no need to hide it. You're presenting information, it has to come from somewhere. In five seconds no one will even remember you looked down at your notes.

If you flub something — and everyone does even in normal speech, remember! — just say "excuse me" and rewind a couple words.

My mindset at these times is that it's just me and whomever I am talking to. I have had to do interviews in front of thousands and the best thing to do is pretend there's no audience at all, it's just you and the person. Much easier to do on a video call!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:15 PM on June 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Click on the three dots in the upper right hand corner of the frame and select “hide self view” so you don’t get stressed out from looking at yourself. Make sure your filter settings are whatever you think looks best but do a trial run on those beforehand.
posted by corey flood at 7:31 PM on June 6, 2022

Best answer: There should be a way to preview how you look on Zoom so I've been known to spend some time checking out outfits and camera levels and lights and backgrounds on very anxious days. But having after 2 yrs of this, I now actually have a "lucky" outfit and look and set up.

I have shoulder length wavy hair and usually loosely clip the main section back low in the nape of my neck. This allows loose side tendrils which looks better on me than a tighter bun but also doesn't have my hair in my face or over my glasses.

I do mascara and brow gel (because I am old), and powder my nose and shiny areas, and do fill with a lip pencil (not lipstick) and that's it for makeup. No eye shadow/liner, blush, bronzer or contouring.

I prefer that my top does not blend into my chair or background. My desk chair is a high back in a dark color and my background is bookcase so I usually go with medium intensity solid colors (not white). I don't put a blanket or scarf over my chair because I don't want to be worrying about it slipping.

And I've every confidence that you'll do great!

I don't typically wear jewelry on Zoom and don't commonly see it on speakers in my profession.

Lighting from the front and above works best in my setting. Zoom may have an autolight adjust.

Have a drink nearby in a cup you are comfortable drinking from.

Access to a copy of your notes/talk in case visuals go down but audio remains. I do a separate print out if I couldn't access an independent monitor.

Sign in early and make sure your mic and speakers, slides and side transitions are working.

Agree with no bra on the doorknob. Cats walking across the screen are encouraged in my world.
posted by beaning at 7:35 PM on June 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

A couple other tips:

Make sure to use the bathroom before you speak.

I agree with having water nearby, but be mindful of how much you drink (see above)

Unless you live entirely alone, close all doors to the room beforehand (to prevent unforeseen appearances by kids, pets, spouses, etc)

Check that you've turned your phone to silent

Disable the Zoom chat window just before you speak, to avoid distraction. If you have to open it again for the Q&A, it's OK to take a moment to do that.

I have wavy hair--what would be the best thing to make it pretty?
I have wavy hair too and I like Aveda's Be Curly spray as a product to hold things in place and avoid frizz. But on Zoom, far less detail is visible than in real life.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:44 PM on June 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's a little late now, but I recently got a camera that has a narrower field of view than my laptop camera, which lets me sit a little further away to fill the frame, which both lets my backdrop be smaller, and makes the viewer see me from a perspective like they're a little further away, so it feels less 'in their face'.

Look at the camera. The external camera I got is a Center Cam, which lets me position it in the middle of the screen so I can read notes or put it on the nose of the people I'm talking to, but even without that if you can look at the camera it'll feel to people like you are so much more present and looking them in the eyes.

Especially since everyone's gotten used to people looking down at their screens, which is essentially staring at each other's chests.

So one thing: Stare into the camera when you're talking.
posted by straw at 7:46 PM on June 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

Zoom-specific suggestion for your aesthetic presentation I haven't seen recommended: update your zoom (and sounds like you'll be on desktop which is great), and then fiddle with the video settings. If your zoom is updated, under 'My Video' you should see the 'Touch Up My Appearance' slider and fiddle with that, and also check the 'Adjust for low light'.

Then go back up to the main settings and go to 'Background and Effects'. Once there at the bottom right there's 'Studio Effects'. Click on that. That's basically the filter settings (the same way like how Snapchat/IG filters work which is in real time). This can go a long way, along with your actual makeup, to help smoothen/brighten your complexion as well as darkening your brows (i don't do that, i find that's very obvious) and applying virtual lipstick (i like this feature a lot).

If you have a second monitor, use that for your script (or maybe on your phone). Physically separating the necessary visual inputs you're inevitably tracking cuts down on your nerves a lot.
posted by cendawanita at 8:06 PM on June 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Try to make sure you're evenly lit, from the front, on both sides. Shadows on the face really don't look great.
posted by praemunire at 8:10 PM on June 6, 2022

Best answer: Everyone has covered all the technical stuff to look good on Zoom. My top tip for appearing calm while public speaking is to slooooow dooown. Speak at least a beat slower than you think is necessary. People will understand you better, it will give you extra time to think through and modulate your speech, and you will seem extremely chill!
posted by prewar lemonade at 8:23 PM on June 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: ArcVida hosted a webinar about looking great on zoom. You might find where she troubleshoots with attendees at the end helpful.

As others have said, have some water, but I'd recommend cold water, which can help calm you out serve as a way to ground you during the call.
posted by skunk pig at 8:25 PM on June 6, 2022

Best answer: If you’re feeling stressed or need to recently yourself, clench your toes. No one can see and it feels good to grab the ground/inner soles with them. Put googley eyes (or a photo/clipping of eyes) on either side of the camera or small mirrors so you are looking into your own eyes. It makes talking to the camera less weird and reminds you to do it.
posted by carmicha at 8:30 PM on June 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I mostly talk with one person or small groups. One thing that I found helpful to the set my laptop on top of a fairly large boxso the the view of the other is at or slightly above eye level. I set the zoom window to be a little small and place in the top center of the screen so when I look slightly up at the other person, I am naturally looking in the direction of the camera (which is just slightly higher). The higher the screen, the less difference between looking at the other person and looking at the camera.

Another tip is that in your zoom settings, under video is an option to touch up your appearance. I have mine set at about 25%, it does a nice job of smoothing out wrinkles without it making my face look artificial. When you go to settings under video you will also get a live view of your image. I find this helpful for checking out the lighting and whether I am well centered in the screen.
posted by metahawk at 8:52 PM on June 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As many others have said, lift that camera up so you're looking slightly upward (I have mine at the top centre of the monitor). The looking down at a laptop camera thing is very 'I'm so cool I'm having this meeting in a coffee shop on my laptop' and nobody's impressed by that anymore. Plus, multiple chins are almost guaranteed with that setup.

Yes to good, bright but not glary lighting. You can easily improvise with various household lamps etc if there are shadows. I use a bookcase background, but not because I'm cool or well-read, it's just what's behind me. However, it does provide some nice interest and is far better than a fake or blurred background (both are very distracting unless done at a professional level). Just check what titles are showing first ... If you're speaking to a group, people have come to hear you, so it's OK to show a bit of personality and, in my view, it presents you as more confident because you're not afraid to show who you are.

Definitely speak slower than you normally would and pause often. This applies to in-person presentations, of course, but equally to virtual ones. People need time to think about what you're saying.

Close the doors to the room you're in, even if you live alone. It will help you focus on the audience.

I have no hair, so anything I suggest about that would be made-up nonsense.
posted by dg at 9:25 PM on June 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Get some of your physical stress out right before you go live. Do a bunch of squats or jumping jacks or some other high intensity thing that doesn’t hurt you but lets all that nervous energy get channeled into movement in a big burst. I call this “the wiggles”. Doesn’t matter if you get a little sweaty, just don’t wear something light colored, nobody can smell you. Follow up the wiggles with some slow deliberate breaths to bring your heart rate back down and release other calming chemicals your body produces after exercise.

If you typically touch your hair and face a lot (I do), get some things to fidget with that are out of view of the camera. I really like those coiled hair ties, they are silent and similarly tactile to twirling hair. As for your actual hair, a low ponytail is good if that’s something you’re already comfortable doing. But if you have a typical hairstyle just stick with that, because otherwise you’re going to touch it and mess with it and have your hands by your face a lot more than if it’s just how it always is. When my hair is long I usually clip it behind my ears when doing a video call so it’s out of my face but I don’t do a ponytail because I will probably pull on it and adjust it twenty times a minute.

Make sure the chair you’re in supports your back so you can have good posture more easily while you’re doing your thing. Make it annoying to slump, and more comfortable to sit up straight. Maybe that means some different pillows, or bringing a chair into another room, or getting a butt cushion for a high backed chair, or moving to a place with a side table you can rest your arms on, or bringing in a foot rest so you actually sit all the way back.
posted by Mizu at 9:55 PM on June 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have wavy hair--would would be the best thing to make it pretty?

Not sure if this applies to you, but I have curly hair that gets a bit wild and "blur my background" is GREAT for taming all of my frizz and flyaways.

If it is distracting to see yourself, you can turn off self view in zoom.
posted by geegollygosh at 5:16 AM on June 7, 2022

Response by poster: Thank all of you for this.

She tells me it will be reading/Q & A times three. When I ask her how long each segment will be, she doesn't know ("because you're the one reading") , but she will pop in when it's time to transfer to Q & A.

Well I get that she can't tell me how long 5 of my poems are, but how do I know how long to go if she doesn't say "10 minutes approx." and then I can tailor my set list.

Besides a slight control (g) problem of mine, this is a very stressful set-up. Does that make sense?
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock at 11:59 AM on June 7, 2022

Best answer: re the timing. propose something that makes sense for you! if there are thematic or structural reasons to group certain poems together, for Q&A purposes, that would be a way to coordinate when to break (after x poem) that is less clock bound. or, you could also arrange to have the organizer text you x min before she wants to break (phone on vibrate), so you know to end at the next good breaking point.

my strategy to avoid zoom presenter stress is quite different. I pin my image large and center and make everyone else tiny. I then ignore the tiny people and talk directly to my own image, as if I'm practicing in the mirror. I give myself tons of silent compliments while I present (I really know my material! I'm talking at a great speed! How great that I'm remembering to breathe!) and really focus on being my best me. even if you don't do this for the real call, a practice self-zoom (you can record it!) is a great way to check your lighting & background, as well as make you feel more prepared.

good luck!
posted by boomdelala at 6:39 PM on June 7, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks for all the good advice. It went like a dream--although there were only 4 people, so more like hanging out in a living room than giving a lecture.
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock at 7:25 PM on June 8, 2022 [3 favorites]

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